A tweet was recently posted featuring an advert claiming Firefox is the better browser in terms of respect for privacy:

Sadly, this isn’t the case, as this Pale Moon update clearly describes:


So, if you use , best to expect information leakage back to anyway.  If you value your privacy and want a functional browser, check out Pale Moon!



Leverage browser caching to make your webpages faster. If you can leverage browser caching, you can increase website speed considerably. As Google starts c

Source: How to Speed up WordPress Leveraging Browser Caching via .htaccess • Crunchify

Screenshot of GNU/Linux Fluxbox desktop

[ this article is an incomplete draft, published for posterity ]

If you want to learn more about the GNU / UNIX operating system, and how Linux interacts with it, using a minimal installation of GNU/Linux will help.  It is harder work than installing and using GNOME 3 or KDE, but the benefits soon outweigh the costs.

Preface: Migrating to a leaner window manager

This article was created on fluxbox, but can probably be applied to any minimalist window manager for GNU/Linux.  My current operating system is Devuan, a fork of Debian.

If you are coming from Linux and have used XFCE, GNOME or KDE, or if you use macOS or Windows, prepare to invest some time in learning a new, yet more basic way of doing things.  Many people will claim that manually doing things in a terminal window is “old fashioned” or slow.  Actually, the more cloud-based and cloud-focused the world becomes, the more all of our programmatic and systematic workflows will rely on Linux.  Having a reasonable understanding of the GNU operating system software can only be an advantage for people these days.

But I digress.  I have written to some length about my love/hate relationship with GNOME 3.  Many of the design decisions of GNOME 3 are admirable but, in implementation, some of its features can become burdensome.  Using fluxbox, there is enough of a window manager for general productivity, but no more.  fluxbox is fast, yet it is so minimal that there is/are:

  • No native GUI tools to adjust its settings
  • No way of handling multiple monitors
  • No built in sound management
  • No native network management
  • No concept of power management
  • No icons on the “desktop”, and in fact, it’s not really a “desktop” at all – just a screen
  • A menu!  Yes, right-click on the desktop to access a menu and launch your programs! 😉
  • Workspaces.  Yep, that bastion of GNU/Linux productivity that us “open sorcerers” all enjoyed for years, before Windows 10 and Mac OS X (Lion) copied on…
  • Settings.  If you’re happy editing a text file, that is.  But if there’s one thing most people know how to do, that’s edit text files.

So, if none of the above phases you, then either you already use fluxbox, or you’re planning to and have now realised that this article is not about installing it for you!  Ah no… if you want some good guides to fluxbox, check out fluxbox.org, Arch’s fluxbox page or Debian’s fluxbox page.

Configuring easier multi-monitor support

Laptop with additional monitor connected.
My ThinkPad with an external display attached.  Yep, snapped while creating this post.

Being such a minimalistic “desktop”, fluxbox is not built to handle multiple monitors.  In GNU/Linux, a popular tool to handle this task is xrandr.

xrandr is handy.  It provides descriptive text output that can be used fairly easily as logical input in a script.

Here’s an example of xrandr on my dual display set-up:

# xrandr

Screen 0: minimum 320 x 200, current 1920 x 1980, maximum 8192 x 8192
LVDS1 connected 1600x900+0+1080 (normal left inverted right x axis y axis) 309mm x 174mm
 1600x900 60.01*+ 40.00 
 1440x900 59.89 
 1360x768 59.80 59.96 
 1152x864 60.00 
 1024x768 60.00 
 800x600 60.32 56.25 
 640x480 59.94 
VGA1 disconnected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)
HDMI1 disconnected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)
DP1 disconnected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)
HDMI2 disconnected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)
HDMI3 connected 1920x1080+0+0 (normal left inverted right x axis y axis) 478mm x 269mm
 1920x1080 60.00*+
 1680x1050 59.88 
 1280x1024 75.02 
 1440x900 74.98 59.90 
 1280x960 60.00 
 1280x800 59.91 
 1152x864 75.00 
 1280x720 59.97 
 1152x720 59.97 
 1024x768 75.08 70.07 60.00 
 832x624 74.55 
 800x600 72.19 75.00 60.32 56.25 
 640x480 75.00 72.81 66.67 60.00 
 720x400 70.08 
DP2 disconnected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)
DP3 disconnected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)

My laptop’s display is identified as LVDS1, and my external monitor is HDMI3, despite that I connect via DVI.  This output was generated with my laptop in a docking station, so without this it may report a DVI connection as HDMI1 or HDMI2.  The T420 also has a DisplayPort++ interface, which would appear to be one of DP{1-3}, and a VGA output too.

The sections we’re interested in here are:

LVDS1 connected 1600x900+0+1080 (normal left inverted right x axis y axis) 309mm x 174mm
 1600x900 60.01*+ 40.00 
HDMI3 connected 1920x1080+0+0 (normal left inverted right x axis y axis) 478mm x 269mm
 1920x1080 60.00*+

Two things of note:  Firstly, when a monitor is connected to a display interface, xrandr reports this as “connected”.  Otherwise, it’s “disconnected”.  Secondly, a monitor may be connected but may not be active.  How do we tell this?  Well, the resolution line displays an asterisk if the display is active, and omits an asterisk if not.  Working on the basis that the xrandr output will always list resolutions from maximum to minimum, and that we would want any monitor to run at best (native/highest) resolution, we can assume that it’s ok to test for the presence of this asterisk in the line that follows the main display line.

(UPDATE: 8 Dec 2016)

Next steps

Since drafting this article in August, my computer and computing needs have changed drastically over the past few months.  Despite a happy 16+ year relationship with Linux on the desktop (YMMV, BTW, but for me every year for me was the “Year of LOTD“), my working and personal computing needs came to an impasse which could only be resolved by moving over to a Mac.  My feelings and initial impressions of Mac usage are still true; for a better desktop, get GNOME – even if there have been several annoying problems.

Coming back to configuring xrandr, I’m afraid I never completed this exercise and instead opted for a quick and dirty logic script that determined which monitors were connected.  Because monitor positions would rarely change, I hard-coded the positional relationship into the script.  The script is will be below (when I’ve found it).

As I continue on with the Mac, I will dump more of the old Linux-y stuff into my blog, to use mainly as a reference for myself should I every have the pleasure of going back there one day.

(UPDATE: 14 Feb 2017)

After 10 months of trial and error, I am finally giving on up the Mac as a means to do work.  I’m faster and happier on GNU+Linux, so that’s where’s I’m headed.  Again.  Happy times! 😀

I’ll still post the script when I find it.

  1. Get Galaxy Note device 
  2. Create your documents in S Note
  3. Place your trust in it
  4. Create a Samsung Account
  5. Log in to Samsung account on device
  6. Sync S Notes to Samsung account
  7. NEVER, ever remove Samsung account from phone and delete it online immediately afterwards. It will delete irrevocably all your S NOTE files on your device
  8. Let’s just repeat that. Your data, that you created on your device, which you choose to  then sync with Samsung, will be deleted.
  9. Accept that Samsung now pwns your data.
  10. Never make that mistake again.

    #proprietary shame 


    I’ve ordered a machine to replace my Macbook Pro in the office: Dell Precision T3500 Xeon W3540 2.66GHz w/12GB  🙂

    Great performance at 1/10th the cost?! What the Dell?!

    I have been suffering as a would-be Mac user for the best part of 10 months now, on and off.  It’s been a painful experience, physically and mentally.  I was only going to post a short “microblog” post and be done with this topic, but I felt the need to expand upon my decision to do this.

    Perhaps it will help dissuade potential future purchasers of Apple‘s overpriced, underwhelming and non-expandable machines.  I hope it does, as one of the worst problems we create for ourselves in the 21st century is planned obsolescence – something, arguably, which Apple is guilty of.


    In my day job as managing director (CEO) of a UK web development & cloud hosting business, I – predictably – develop websites and administer servers.  I’m the kind of guy who likes to keep his hands dirty, and my skills up.

    Like many other people running a small business, my daily activities can vary rapidly.  A computer which is good at switching quickly is a boon.  Actually, it’s a frikkin’ necessity.  Yet my core activity – PHP & JavaScript development, rely on a few basic things.

    Very basic things, in fact.

    Very Basic Things I continue to rely upon, to get work done:

    • A keyboard with sufficient key travel, tactile feedback;
    • A keyboard that broadly adheres to the standard PC 105-key layout (with or without a numeric keypad).  This means:
      • Not putting CTRL (Control) in a stupid place.
      • Not putting ALT (Option) in an equally stupid place.
      • Not having a ⌘ (“Command”) key full-stop.  It’s a redundant modifier.
    • Having an operating system that gets out of my way.
    • Having a computer fast enough to run an operating system that gets out of my way.
    • Seeing the SMART status of connected drives.
    • Confidence in the device’s security.
    • Confidence in its ability to stay cool when working hard for long periods.
    • A system-native text editor that doesn’t refuse to edit the files I tell it to!
    • Expandability.

    For me, the Macbook Pro fails in all of the above.

    Appeasing Mac fans & celebrating the good stuff

    In April 2016, I bought this “Early 2015” Macbook Pro.  It has a Core i5 5257U processor, 8GB RAM and 256GB PCIe SSD.  When I mentioned to fellow designers I bought this, it was met with a knowing smile and the instant acknowledgement, “ahh wow, the SSD in those machines makes them so fast!”.  I also, regretfully, bought a 27″ Thunderbolt display.  The total cost of these two: a few pence short of £2,100.  Two-thousand, one-hundred pounds for an average-spec 2015 laptop and 27-inch QHD monitor.

    Fast is something I have never, ever considered a Mac to be, and especially this MBP.  It booted quick, sure, but in general use… nah.  Really, no.  But I’m not in the habit of upsetting people, so more often than not I’d reply with some kind of non-opinionated remark like, “yeah?  Right… I look forward to seeing that”.  I’d argue, though, that the apparent lack of speed is much more to do with the operating system than the hardware.

    This isn’t an Apple-bashing post.  It’s just an expression of my preference.  Yet there are things I really do like about the MBP:

    • Ambient light-sensitive backlit keyboard – very classy
    • A 3:2 ratio screen.  Apple has the right idea here, and the rest of the world is stupid for putting widescreen displays in productivity laptops. Stupid.  Well done Apple.
    • Build quality is really excellent.  If you like computers because they can be built well, I guess you may already have a Mac. 😉
    • Key spacing & travel.  You’re probably thinking, “but you just said…”.  More on this in a sec.
    • The port selection, while not excellent, still rocks more than on a MBP 2016 (like, duh!)
    • The 13″ retina display
    • The laptop’s general weight, shape, size and physical feel.  It’s solid, if a little cold to the touch sometimes.

    Talking KJeyboards…

    I am typiubg this post on Apple’s “Magic Keyboard 2”.  This section, including heading, is intentionally left with all the typos in as I make them.  Why?  Because the MAgic Ketword 2 is uterly crap compared to the keyvoard on the MBP itself.  It pales in comparison in terms of typing experience.  I would strongly recommend against anyone buying it, unless it’s vital to you to have a mininalist desk you can take photos of and swoon over all day.  I spend hours of wasted time correcting typos that occur as a direct resylt of using this keyvoard.

    By comparison, I was really quite glad how usable the keyboard on the MBO really is.  ITs typing experience, much to my genuine surprisem ws excellent.  The key travel is good abd the spacing between keys works really well.  Although chiclet in style, with slightly rteduced key sizes compared to, say, an old school LEnobo Thinkpad (like my old T420), it’s so much more intuitive to use than the Magix Keyboard 2 that I shall no longer labvout the point and just move on.

    The Problem with using a Mac:  Mac OS / OS X / macos

    2015 Retina Macbook Pro
    My 2015 rMBP. The current work machine.

    macos is stupid and has been out-developed by GNU+Linux and the GNOME free software project.  Strong statement, huh?  Here’s a few reasons why.

    • macos requires two keys for Mission Control and Launchpad.   You cannot view open windows and search for an application in the same mode.  In contrast, GNOME provides an overview by pressing the Super (Windows) key to see open windows, and accepts text search for launching a new app immediately.
    • macos doesn’t support writing to NTFS partitions.  Or writing to any Extended File System (EXT2,3,4), or other UNIX-based file systems.
    • macos’ Finder doesn’t handle SFTP connections to remote servers.
    • macos Finder supports the file operation ‘Move’ across file systems only through the undocumented keystroke, Shift-Command-V.  Why is this undocumented (or at least so hard to find in the documentation)?!
    • macos doesn’t do workspaces / virtual desktops as well as GNOME.  No other OS does.  GNOME uses the extra horizontal width to manage a vertical list of workspaces.  It’s totally logical and fluid in use, if unconventional.  But then, one has to “Think Different” to get on with unconventional.
    • macos doesn’t open an application in the workspace in which it was launched.  It seems to “remember” the last-used workspace in which the application was opened, which is pretty stupid when a second display is connected.
    • macos doesn’t support focus under the pointer.  When you move the pointer over another window, the previous window is still active.  Clicking, say on a button on the inactive window, first activates the window.  You then have to click on the button again in order to perform the expected action.  Again, serious inefficiencies when done multiple times per day.
    • Some macos keyboard shortcuts, relying on Cmd, really suck.  Here’s an example:
      Copying (Cmd-C) on a Mac. Note the awkward, cramp-inducing hand-crunch.
      Copying (Ctrl-C) on a PC. Possible without contortions.
    • Like other proprietary operating systems, macos includes features that are not wanted (Siri?! Siri-ously..?) or installed as standard (i.e. bloatware) that have no place on a business machine, Garageband being one example.
    • The list could go on, and on, and on…   [ EDIT 15 Feb 2017 ]  and it will!
    • Open a Finder window and the icons are not automatically sorted.  There is no general sorting setting, so each folder must have a “Arrange by” setting applied.
    • Copy a file from one Finder window and Paste into another.  The new file doesn’t appear in the destination Finder window.  That’s ok, just refresh the window’s contents…. except you can’t refresh a Finder window’s contents (amazing design decision there)!  And why does the file not even appear in the folder you’ve just pasted it into?!

    But the most important thing is that GNU+Linux and GNOME (or really any other free software desktop environment) is so much better.  At least for someone like me, working with remote servers, or SSH sessions in a terminal, or doing lots of text editing.

    What’s in a saying?

    Here is a phrase you may have heard somewhen:

    • Choose an occupation you love, and you will never work a day in your life

    I believe this is true.  I love my occupation and I am so privileged that people pay me to do it.   When I get into the office, I cherish that feeling of biting off more than I can possibly chew, and working the problem towards a solution.

    In the business, we make every effort to deliver the highest quality at the lowest possible cost.  However, in web design, development and hosting, there are quite a number of significant costs to meet while trying to keep the end price reasonable.  One such cost is test equipment.

    Another cost is time; a hidden cost if, as a developer, you are always fighting your equipment in order to achieve a comfortable, efficient workflow.  Using a Mac, while semi-enjoyable, also taught me just how efficient I had become using GNU+Linux to deliver results to clients.  I can’t imagine a more fluid workflow than Emacs, Chrome and GNOME.

    Looks are nothing

    So, to the new (old) machine, which will be with me tomorrow.  For the enormous sum of £179.99 + VAT and delivery (£9.99), I am getting:

    • T3500 Workstation
    • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (this will be kept on the HDD for testing purposes)
    • Intel Xeon W3520 2.66GHz (4 Cores / 8 Threads)
    • 12GB RAM
    • 500GB SATA drive
    • DVD-RW
    • 512MB NVIDIA Quadro FX 580

    There are a few discussions online about the merits of this workstation, and I’m glad I opted for one instead of a new laptop to supplant the MBP.  The Xeon 3520 processor is not new by any stretch of the imagination.  It’s 8 years old.  But it’s still capable enough by far and comparable to a core i7 920; a processor we still have in use in a server at Warp.

    But let’s focus instead on someone else’s video, which is a nice way to tail off…